After a wild few days of transactions, the rotation for the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers is starting to look much more clear.
The first unit will likely feature some combination of LeBron James, Wes Matthews, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol. The leading thought is that that the second-unit will have an offense led by Dennis Schroeder and Montrezl Harrell. The two players, both finalists for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year last season, will run a high volume of pick-and-roll sets.
Barring any other trades, Schroeder and Harrell will be flanked by Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma. This leaves an open spot on the wing in the second unit, which could be given to Talen Horton-Tucker.
LeBron James-Wes Matthews-Kentavious Caldwell Pope-Anthony Davis-Marc Gasol
Dennis Schroder-Alex Caruso-Talen Horton-Tucker-Kyle Kuzma-Montrezl Harrell
That is the best non-Warriors roster any NBA team has had in quite some time.
— Samuel H. Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) November 23, 2020
On the Hoop Collective podcast, Ramona Shelburne mentioned she has heard Horton-Tucker will likely earn a lot more minutes next season (via ESPN):
“I’m going to tell you a guy who is going to play a lot for them this year is Talen Horton-Tucker, the second-round pick from last year.”
During the same episode, Tim Bontemps added some details as well:
“He’s a guy that a couple of executives that I trust really liked in the draft. [He’s] an intriguing player. He definitely could settle into a role for them on the wing as a long, athletic guy that can guard some people. No question.”
Earlier today, on his podcast, ESPN’s Zach Lowe also said that he expects Horton-Tucker “will have a role” for the Lakers.
Digging a bit deeper, it is important to note that Horton-Tucker is currently represented by Rich Paul (the same agent that represents LeBron and AD) at Klutch Sports. Paul also represents Harrell and Caldwell-Pope, who signed contracts with Los Angeles this offseason.
"We look at our agency as a family in general." – Montrezl Harrell on Klutch, his relationship with LeBron and AD.
— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) November 23, 2020
But the increase in playing time for Horton-Tucker, who has a 7-foot-1.25 wingspan, is assuredly more than just a favor to his agent. During his 2019-20 campaign, Horton-Tucker played at just 19 years old. He averaged impressive marks with 18.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.0 apg and 1.4 spg during his first professional season in the NBA G League.
Before the NBA moved to its bubble location, however, Horton-Tucker stepped on the floor just two times as a rookie. The wing played less than six minutes during those games, taking just one attempt from the field.
Then once the Lakers secured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the former Iowa State standout started to make some headway. Horton-Tucker was moved into the starting lineup for the final game of the regular season. The rookie recorded 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals during that match against the Sacramento Kings.
One of my favorite parts of the Lakers win over the Rockets was how excited LeBron James was for 19-year-old rookie Talen Horton-Tucker
— Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane) September 11, 2020
He then made two appearances in the postseason during the Western Conference Semifinals. It was a small sample size, of course, but the Lakers were able to outscore the Rockets by 10.1 points per 100 possessions during that time.
The maturation experience that he gained from playing in the bubble and winning the title will certainly help him make the transition into receiving more playing time next season.
All things considered, his development seems to be a priority for the front office and coaching staff in Los Angeles.